“We can’t have a show where everybody just says whatever because it’s cute,” Louie yelped in a season two episode that briefly sent up C.K.’s painful real-life experience making HBO’s Lucky Louie. With an episode like “Dad,” one has to wonder if replacing the word cute with silly or some equivalent would nullify the gripe for C.K. and turn it into a mantra. “We can have a show where everybody just says and does whatever because it’s absurd — sometimes, at least.”
Flashes of the ridiculous have abounded in Louie’s two-point-six seasons — a date ditching Louie via helicopter; a duckling halting an encroaching military firefight; a crazed hobo’s dismembered head flumping down the street after he’s accidentally launched into traffic; a dog changing into another dog during a marijuana binge; a tryst between Louie and Joan Rivers. The moments have accumulated so precipitously that, while writing and talking about Louie, I know to keep a hat nearby stocked with mostly interchangeable words like wacky, absurd, bananas, and yes, the anchor, silly. One or two can usually get me through an episode. But with so many instances crammed into the single installment that was “Dad,” it feels worthwhile to step back and wonder whether this was Louie at peak ludicrousness. I was wrong to see the title and expect a story mirroring something as heavy and filmic as season one’s similarly bluntly titled “God.” So, so wrong.
The kitchen sink approach left “Dad” with moments I wished would spin out into full stories and segments I found myself antsy during. The cold open was excellent: A serene moment of Jane’s violin playing, as impressive as it is beauteous (actress Ursula Parker apparently performed at Carnegie Hall at age eight). “It’s not time to do that right now,” a fuming Louie tells his child prodigy. “But it’s beautiful,” Jane explains. If there’s any key to the episode, it’s this —Louie is, or can be, a show capable of great beauty in its singular viewpoint and presentation and humor and realness. But tonight’s just not the time for that.
We’re soon treated to Excelsior C.K., Louie’s uncle. It’s the second appearance by 72-year-old F. Murray Abraham (Amadeus, Scarface), all but obliterating the oddness that was his cameo as a potential threesome-mate for Louie last season. In the show’s consistency-be-pretty-much-damned tradition, Abraham’s in a new role, and he’s impossible to figure out. He uses a baffling story about a boot-wearing duke and a credenza to demand Louie reconcile with his father. Along the way, he: deploys a terrifying condom-applying pantomime as a metaphor for father and son kinship; gesticulates meaningfully with his middle finger without realizing, or caring, that it’s synonymous with telling someone to fuck himself; orders two Cornish hens and some water.
There’s a reprisal of Louie’s comics-only poker game, nice in that it reminds us of the show’s deliberation on the word faggot, if not as memorable in actual content this time around. But it’s Sarah Silverman’s second consecutive appearance, and we do get to learn that Jim Norton jerks off to his own infantile porn doodles.
At the doctor, we get a great new encapsulation of C.K.’s worldview when he’s quizzed about any new stresses appearing: “I got kids and, uh, work, it’s hard sometimes, but boilerplate misery — alone in the world, might as well be a maggot sucking a dead cat’s face, what’s the point, but nothing new.”
“Dad” also holds more references to existing C.K. stand-up material than a typical episode. The lazy off-brand Staples employees? “You’re wearing a vest that matches the building; just do the thing that is the point of the place.” Doing something forbidden with a rental car (now, vomiting; then, in the Live at the Beacon special, abandoning it at airport parking)? Yup. A traffic altercation?Topic = mined.
Louie almost reuniting with his father is an anticlimax leading to a dance-remix-length version of the date fleeing Louie in a helicopter. Seconds before seeing his father’s face, Louie vaults into a breakneck run. He helmetlessly commandeers some insane three-wheeled vehicle I don’t even have a clue what it’s called. Then a climb and a jump on a Boston dock and Louie’s onto a tropical/Miami/eighties-themed speedboat and out into the ocean, as far from his father as possible, in the kookiest manner possible.
• C.K.’s actual father left when C.K. was young. “I imagine he’s seen my show. I haven’t really talked to him about it,” Louie said, perhaps cagily, in 2011.
• A couple nice behind-the-scenes bits from earlier pieces of Louie journalism: One, from Entertainment Weekly’s cover story this summer, said C.K. wanted to look genuinely sick before barfing onto the rental car, so he “wolfs down some Popeyes chicken, runs a few laps around the parking lot, and drops onto the gasoline-stained floor of the U-Save for a dozen push-ups. By the time he’s done, he looks like he’s going to have a heart attack. But that’s not enough.” He proceeded to have a crew member punch him in the stomach a couple times, once at “about 40 percent” and once “a little harder.” Jesus, Louis.
• Anecdote two, from the A.V. Club’s early season-three chat with C.K.: “I’m physically pretty banged up from this season from shit that I did. I fucking jumped into a boat that was ten feet off a dock, and I really hurt my knee. I’ve taken such a beating. But I do it because I know I’m not going to get an opportunity to do this for very long. This is going to feel like it was only a few years as soon as it’s over. I’m trying to really slow down time while it’s going on. And it’s really important to me that I earn it, that I earn what I’ve got in front of me by doing the show as well as possible. So that’s how I feel about it. It’s a big fucking deal.”
• Louie has ordered his daughters off to do homework so many times. Kids do get homework, but … ?
• Anyone else had the exact same experience in Staples or a similar place? “Please don’t ever make us help you and if we do help you we’re not going to help youhelp you.” New York’s Staples seem to operate solely on this ethos.
• You may have caught C.K.’s name sneaking into the editorial spot alongside former Woody Allen editor Susan E. Morse the last few weeks. This week the cut was all C.K.
• Louie getting out of the car and yelling “I’ll staht somethin’!” needs to get turned into a GIF immediately.
Of all the recurring themes to pop up in Louie, the one that C.K. seems to gravitate towards the most is his character’s love life — or more specifically, lack there of. This is no coincidence, considering C.K. got divorced from his real life wife in 2008, and event that seemed to spark something within him creatively that has led to the most success he’s ever had, both in his stand up and with his critically-acclaimed television series.
As we saw last week, Louie has a difficult time building relationships with anyone at this stage in his life. He’s been out of the game for so long that he is utterly clueless and feels like he’s been dropped into this strange world that he had no idea existed until recently. He’s had a series of awkward flings (including in tonight’s episode with guest star and fellow comedian Maria Bamford) and last season he fell hard for Pamela, even though she told him from the outset she’d never want to be with him. Louie may be a hopeless romantic in many ways, but now he’s out to prove that, even in his mid-40s, he doesn’t have to be helpless.
Regardless of how pathetic Louie’s relationships with people his own age have become, it’s clear that the bond he has with his daughters is as strong as ever. Louie is an amazing dad, and, especially after a talk with them about why he doesn’t have a girlfriend, he wants nothing more than to give them the motherly figure they deserve (even though, by all accounts, Louie’s ex seems to be a great mother to Lily and Jane as well).
Louie then begins to imagine every woman he sees not just as a possible sexual encounter or girlfriend, but as a mother — even Maria, who he rather desperately invites over for dinner (which she finds even more offensive than the bad performance Louie just gave in bed). But it’s not until he meets a quirky, yet-to-be-named bookshop employee (played by Parker Posey) that he begins to feel smitten. Everything this woman says strikes a chord with Louie, even down to the advice she gives regarding how to handle the emotions of his prepubescent daughter through the power of literature.
He may not have the most confidence in the world, but damnit if Louie isn’t persistent. He goes back to the store several times to get more books for his kids, but mostly he just wants to get face time with her. And with every passing visit he becomes more and more enamored by her as she remembers his daughters names, listens to what he says, offers up great suggestions, and even jokes with him.
In the stand-up bits, Louie commentates how that even after all these years, asking someone out is still one of the most nerve-wracking things in the world, but that’s what makes it so much fun. Louie delivers an amazingly sweet and self-deprecating monologue explaining why she should go out with him, understanding that he knows how difficult it is to be an attractive, single woman in New York City (“…its basically disappointing, maybe because you try to be nice to men as human beings and then they respond by just torpedoing towards your vagina, and I want you to know that I’m aware that you’re young and beautiful and I’m not either of those things.”). It’s very similar to a speech he gave to Pam last season right before she turned him down (again), so it’s natural for him to be afraid of this girl’s response. But it turns out that the big production was probably unnecessary, as she happily accepted his offered (while giving him an ‘A+’ on the asking out in the process).
What happens with Louie and this woman remains to be seen in part two next week, but seeing Louie do the celebratory fist-pump after she walked away was an amazing character moment that every one of us can relate to. Even if absolutely nothing comes of this, it’s great to know that all the changes he’s made and the shit he’s gone through and existential questions he asks himself hasn’t affected Louie’s generally positive outlook on life. He’s as alive as he’s ever been and still has hope that he can find love again.
- Congratulations to Louis C.K. for his record-breaking seven individual Emmy nominations, including for Outstanding Actor in a Comedy Series (though Louie as a series was still snubbed for Outstanding Comedy Series).
- Louie’s standup bit regarding his daughter’s question if he’s ever been prejudiced: “I want to fuck Scarlet Johanson. I don’t know her and never even saw her in person. But I just know. It would be the best thing to ever happen to me and the worst thing to ever happen to her. I don’t even jerk off to her; that’s how much I like her.”
- Best line reading of the night goes to little Jane, who can never stop being adorable: “When are YOU…gonna get a girlfriend?”
- Maria on Louie trying to add features to their sex-only arrangement: “You’ve really ruined my night in two ways now… You’re bad at sex.”
‘Louie,’ Louie, Louie, Louie. ‘Louie’ season 3 sets up its third episode of the year, as Louie travels to Miami for work and in the process makes a new friend, leading him to question society’s controversial stance on male bonding in the modern age.
Last week’s ‘Louie’ episode “Telling Jokes / Set Up” saw Louie (surprise!) telling jokes over dinner with his daughters, and later finding himself set up by some friends to have dinner with a woman (Oscar-winner Melissa Leo), with controversial results. So how does “Miami” get things moving? What more will season 3 of ‘Louie’ bring?
Read on for your in-depth recap of everything you need to know about ‘Louie’ season 3 episode 3, “Miami!”
Asleep on a plane, the arrival to Miami awakens our hero Louie, who taxis through the sights of the city to arrive at his hotel, oddly greeted by shirtless models adorning the lobby. Following a quick nap, Louie performs his set, and hits the beach the following day. Still, with so many beautiful people around, the poor, schlubby comedian resolves not to remove his shirt, and instead returns to the hotel to eat and sleep it off.
Later, he returns to the beach (when the other, less attractive beach-goers have returned as well), and folds his personal items into a towel before heading in for a dip. When Louie notices a nearby beach attendant accidentally swooping his belongings in with the clean-up, Louie waves incessantly and tries to signal him from the water. Instead, he catches the attention of a local lifeguard, who swims out and drags him to shore, in spite of Louie’s protests.
The lifeguard introduces himself as Ramon, and courteously follows along with what he presumes to be Louie denying his drowning. Intrigued by his job, Ramon checks out Louie’s set at the hotel, and congratulates him afterward on how funny he was. The two share a drink, as Louie embarrasses himself by assuming that because Ramon came from Cuba as a child, he came on a raft, though the lifeguard quickly forgives him. In fact, they have something in common, as Louie was born and raised in Mexico for his first seven years! (Okay, what? Come on.)
The next morning, following an awkward conversation of Louie’s with a rude girl who ate one of his strawberries without properly asking, Ramon appears to invite the comedian to a party, promising to show him sides of Miami he’s never seen. The pair bike around the city, taking in the food, the culture and the sights, before heading to the party. Louie has a wonderful time, exchanging nice words with Ramon’s uncle that “all men are brothers,” before awkwardly trying to flirt with some younger girls.
Just then, as he and Ramon ponder the lonelier people of Miami who waste time on their high-rise balconies, when Louie realizes he still has a show to get to! Enlisting the help of his friends, Ramon and Louie race back to the hotel, getting Louie there in perfect time for his show. Being his last night in Miami, Louie thanks Ramon for the time they’ve spent together, and the two part ways.
Or do they? Louie calls his ex-wife Janet, asking her to keep the kids a few more days as he’s decided to stay in Miami a bit longer, to which she naturally assumes that he’s met someone and wishes to spend more time with them. Well… she’s not wrong, as the next day Louie visits Ramon at the lifeguard’s chair to let him know he’ll be sticking around, to which things seem noticeably more awkward. The pair go for a swim and toss the football, before Ramon returns to work.
Later that night, Louie meets with Ramon in the hotel lounge for a drink, but Ramon awkwardly has to question exactly why Louie opted to stay a few days longer. Neither of the two flatly express their homophobic discomfort with the situation, but Louie does his best to extoll that it isn’t out of anything over the line, while Ramon insists that people should be who they are no matter what. Regardless, the two are happy to have met one another, and wouldn’t take anything back. As his uncle said, all men are brothers.
Back in New York, Louie jokes to the audience at the Comedy Cellar that straight men are the only group preoccupied with being mistaken for any other group, and as such find themselves unable to express certain sentiments. For instance, no straight man could get away with using the word “wonderful” to describe anything. The sad lives of straight men.
As the credits roll, we see the real Louis C.K. and his crew attempt to film the initial drowning scene, overcoming the tide as the crew difficultly navigates keeping its equipment through and above water.
Traveling episodes of ‘Louie’ always bring something unique to the table, and it’s an interesting question to explore the way modern men make new friends, even in a homo-erotic pretense. It’s not the darkest, or even funniest episode of ‘Louie’ to date, but it’s certainly still entertaining and thought-provoking, as it should be.
I was struck recently by a scene in an episode of the FX Network TV show “Louie,” when the title character, played by comedian Louis C.K., takes his two school-age daughters on a road trip to visit an elderly aunt he hasn’t seen in years. As the three of them are motoring along, The Who song “Who Are You?” comes on the radio, and Louie turns up the volume and starts to sing along. In fact, he belts out the whole 3½-minute tune, at points accompanying himself on air drums and guitar, or turning around to deliver more emphatic vocals to his daughters in the backseat — even the climactic “Who the #$%& are you?” part.
If you’ve seen “Louie,” you know it’s an unusual show — the kind of comedy that’s actually more depressing and unnerving to watch than most anything else on TV (except maybe the Grammy Awards). But the scene in the car struck me as remarkable for a number of reasons, not the least of which is that network television shows don’t typically burn more than three minutes of air time while someone on screen sings along, slightly off-key, to a recorded track (again, with the exception of the Grammys).
One thing I found particularly authentic about the scene was the daughters’ reaction. On a typical “family-friendly” sitcom, in a scene like this, the daughters would likely join in for a happy, heartfelt family moment. Or, if the show were a bit more snarky, the girls would cover their ears and beg the dad to stop. But on ”Louie,” as I have found to be the case in real life, the kids in the backseat are mostly indifferent, paying little attention to Dad’s singing, his excitement or his disregard of highway safety as he embraces his love of classic rock.
Not that the scene was 100 percent true to life. One big discrepancy I noticed is that Louie got to pick the radio station. Needless to say, this is not the case in my car. I don’t know when parents lost this privilege, but it must have happened after my childhood was over. My dad always insisted on listening to classical music when we drove which, while I didn’t appreciate it at the time, I later realized helped instill in me a lifelong love of not having to listen to classical music.
The other element of the scene that rang hollow was that Louie seemed to know all the song’s lyrics, which is rarely the case with me. Sometimes I’ll hear a song come on the radio and tell the kids, “Oh, I love this one!” and then fumble pathetically as I try to sing along. I guess I should really tell the kids, “Oh, I love this one — the chorus, anyway!”
But there is at least one song I do know all the way through, and that’s “Yesterday,” by The Beatles. It’s one of the songs I’ve always sung to my kids to put them to sleep, whether they wanted me to or not. But with “Yesterday,” I have the opposite problem — I know it too well. I’ve sung this song so many times that I can’t help but over-analyze the lyrics, especially the part where Paul McCartney famously sings of his lost lover, “Why she had to go, I don’t know, she wouldn’t say. I said something wrong, now I long for yesterday-ay-ay-ay.”
In the approximately 18 million times I’ve sung this song, I’ve come to wonder a few things. Like, who is this girlfriend who up and leaves Paul McCartney without a word of explanation? Does that sound like any woman you know? What, was she an intelligence operative about to go on a top-secret mission, but she didn’t want to jeopardize Paul’s safety by revealing any of the details? Probably not. Which is why I bet if you asked her, she’d have a different story to tell:
Paul’s Girlfriend: “‘she wouldn’t say?’ Is that what he tells people? Oh, I said, let me tell you, I said plenty. Maybe Paul should rewrite the lyrics to that song as, ‘Why she had to go I don’t know, I wouldn’t listen. Probably because I was too busy running around with that French trollop, Michelle.’”
So clearly, even a musical genius like Paul McCartney has lyrics-related problems. But no matter. Inspired by Louie’s rendition of “Who Are You?” I’m going to keep on singing along to the radio in the car with gusto, even if I don’t know the lyrics and I sound absolutely terrible. Then I’ll promise my kids I’ll stop if they let me pick the station.
Readers taking issue with Malcolm’s take on classical music, Beatles lyrics or proper parenting can email their dissatisfaction to Malcolm@CultureShlock.com.
There are two shows happening at any given comedy club on any given night. There is the show people paid a cover and two-drink minimum to see on stage. And there is the comics-only back table, where acts are dissected, beefs are adjudicated and global issues are hashed. Louis C.K. is one of the few working comics who commands equal respect in both venues.
“Nightline” spent a day with the “comic’s comic,” as the notoriously creative control freak finished editing “Louis C.K.: Live at the Beacon Theater” on his MacBook Pro. He not only wrote, produced, performed and edited his fifth stand-up special, but he is also releasing the concert film himself, blowing off HBO and Comedy Central to sell downloads on his website for $5 a pop.
Soon, he’ll begin writing, directing, producing, starring and editing the third season of “Louie.” Since FX lets him make the show with no network interference, it is the single greatest deal in the history of televised comedy. C.K. knows this, and is savoring the pinnacle of his sometimes brutal career while refusing to let success corrode his soul.
“People get successful and they start saying, ‘Well of course I am! I was chosen! I’m special!’ No, you’re not,” he said. “You’re a dirty monkey and you freak-lucked into a pile of money and it’s going to be gone at some point. So you can’t get excited that you’re doing well.”
“Nightline” anchor Bill Weir: Do you remember the first laugh you ever got?
Louis C.K.: I was in third grade and we did these vocabulary studies where you had to stand up and read a sentence using one of your vocabulary words. I asked, “can I use two words in this sentence?” And he said “sure.” The words I had were “building” and “clothes” and I said, “I want to take off my clothes and climb a building.”
Everybody went nuts and I got filled with this hot feeling. But then other kids in the class started doing it too… like Mary Beth and all these popular kids started standing up and doing funny ones that also referred to other kids that were popular.
Weir: See, people have been ripping you all since the third grade.
C.K.: Yeah, exactly. And I remember that feeling what they’re doing is cheap.
Weir: About 10 or 15 years ago, you were doing a lot more absurdist, goofy stuff before you made the transition to raw honesty. Was that a deliberate decision?
C.K.: No, it just kind of happened because when you start doing comedy you’re trying to think of funny things, you’re trying to find funny things, and you’re trying to be funny. And then at some point you just get older. You grow up and you get tired of doing it and something happens where you just don’t care — you just can’t keep faking it, you can’t keep being fake.
And some people harden into a glazed version of their fake selves. And I’ve seen them all the time. They’re frozen into this one face on stage. And after the show you’re like, “How you doing?” and they’re like, “Yeah! I’m OK!” And they’re living with some awful thing in their life. I said to myself at some point I’m either going to stop this or I’m going to do the wrong version of this. I was like, “these jokes suck.” I had gone around many times with, “this guy’s funny, maybe he could do a TV show!” “Ahh, maybe not.” I’d gone that circle so many times, and I realized I don’t want to do this. Let’s really trash this career in a fabulous way.
Weir: How did fatherhood change you?
C.K.: Well being a dad made me not so concerned with myself anymore. When people have kids they get into a competition with their own children for their own energy and priorities. They think the kids are taking something away from them. But if you just let it go — of COURSEyour kids are more important than you. Just accept the premise that your kids are more important. And I say no to jobs all the time, because I have to go to ballet or whatever it is.
Since I’ve made that choice, my career has gone through the roof, because if you approach something like show business like, “I’ll do whatever these people want me to do,” or “Whatever it is, I’ll take it!” you just end up chasing weird trajectories. I could have done a second-tier part in a sitcom in Los Angeles and I would have lived out there and people would have said, “Yeah that was pretty good,” and I would have made some money. That would all be gone now, but because I said, “I don’t leave New York, and I only work three and a half days a week,” I held out until I got this show that’s in New York. I don’t work for other people. I make my own schedule. That’s why the show is good.
Weir: Chris Rock said you’re the only white comic who can get away with saying the “n” word. Why?
C.K.: I don’t know, because, I’m exploring it. The fact that it’s a terrible word to say and it hurt a lot of people makes it worth talking about. Everything that’s awful — really the best thing you could do is talk about it and discuss, “Why does it hurt so much? Why do people talk about it this way? Where did it come from?” That’s usually when I’ve used that word on stage, I’ve usually approached it like that, “let’s talk about that word, it’s worth talking about” or I use it in an absurd way. It’s cyclical. People become more puritanical periodically.
You know, Mark Twain’s “Huck Finn” gets censored every 10, 20 years. You have to accept it. I’m not one of these comics that’s like, “Hey, don’t tell me what to say!” I understand people get upset. I understand. I just I have to keep doing what I do. It’s a very Darwinist system. If I upset enough people I won’t sell anymore products or tickets and I’ll disappear.
Weir: You joke about your non-sex life, but with this new fame you must be getting more game.
C.K.: I get emails from women that say, “I want to have sex with you.” I kind of know what the shape of an email like that looks like now so I don’t really read it. There’s always an attachment. It always starts with, “I’ve never written a celebrity before in my life.”
I don’t think I want to get laid as much because that’s very intimate to be with somebody. When I first got divorced, I f—-ed around. It was fun but then I quickly realized when you’re 44 and you have a life and you have kids you’re like, “There’s a stranger in my bed. That is not cool, and we’re naked. This is a nightmare, I don’t know her, I want to know someone way better before I do this again.” So I can wait to get laid. I got kids. I got a job. I’ll be alright.
Head over to FX’s Louie site to watch available episodes.